Friday, November 16, 2018

Stuffed Eggs, part 2 -- another recipe from the Transylvanian cookbook

This is my second attempt at stuffing eggs by following a recipe from the Transylvanian cookbook.  You can see the first attempt's write up here. 

This is the digital translation of a book in Hungarian that I have tried recipes from before.  Here is the book reference:

The Prince of Transylvania’s court cookbook 

From the 16th century 

THE SCIENCE OF COOKING


You can find a copy of it here:  http://www.medievalcookery.com/etexts/transylvania-v2.pdf

The recipes I have tried are here:  Prince of Transylvania's court cookbook

These are the recipes I picked out.  Today I am trying the second one, using the experience and ideas I got from trying the first one.

Stuffed Eggs

(532) Stuffed eggs. Poke a hole into the eggs, blow out the insides, fry it and slice it, stuff it with honey, black pepper, currants, saffron and cinnamon, then put it on a thin skewer, roast it far from the coal, then serve it.

(599) Egg stuffed in shell. Put twelve eggs on a plate, poke a hole in them, blow out the white and the yolk. Once blown out, add black pepper, saffron and salt, put them into butter and cook it, cut it with a knife, whip two raw eggs, add sugar, small grapes and some parsley. Then pour it back into the egg shell. Make a skewer, put the eggs on it, and roast them.

(601) Stuffed egg white. Wash the egg, boil it, once boiling, pour the hot water down and add some cold water. Poke the end, blow out the yolk onto a pot, leave the whites inside. Cook the yolk like scrambled eggs, add sugar, saffron, black pepper, salt and small grapes. Put some parsley and whip some eggs into it, stuff it into the shell, boil it again in water, once boiled, take down the shell, only the white will be stuffed. Put it on a skewer and roast it; you can make any sauce.


My Redaction

5 eggs
butter for cooking the eggs
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 pinches ground saffron
1/4 tsp salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons dried currants
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.

Pierce and blow four of the eggs as described in part 1.  Set aside the shells.

Beat the whites and yolks well, then mix in the black pepper, saffron, and salt.

Melt the butter and scramble the eggs, but stop the cooking while the eggs are still very moist.  Immediately move the eggs into a bowl and cut or mash with a fork.


Scrambled, still moist

Scrambled, moist, and broken up with a fork
Add the sugar, parsley, and currants, then mix well. 

All the ingredients together
Pierce and blow the remaining egg.  Beat the white and yolk, then add to the scrambled egg mixture.  Mix well.  The result should be very wet and chunky.

Wet!
Using a small spoon, fill each shell to almost full.  It is like feeding a baby:  Spoon some into the hole and then use the spoon to scoop up and redeposit what didn't make it into the hole the first time.  Also, it helps to hold the shell so that one finger covers the little hole in the bottom to stop leaks.

Wipe the filled shell with a damp cloth to clean it, then dry it with another cloth. 

Once all the shells are filled, bake for 35 minutes.  Serve hot or warm.

Note:  The stuffing may have expanded and run onto the outside of the shell.  You might want to wipe it off with a warm, damp cloth before serving.

In need of cleaning

The Verdict

One goal I had this time was to boost the flavorings up to make the stuffing more interesting.  All my guest tasters agreed I achieved that goal.  Even the person who said the first attempt was bland and not exciting!  While one said the texture was still very much like oatmeal, it was intriguing and flavorful oatmeal, which made all the difference.  Everyone liked the result.

Easiest to eat it cut in half.
I could taste the egg (the chunks were bigger this time) and the pepper made an interesting tingle on my tongue.  The salt and sweet balance were just right, and the saffron and parsley made a light undercurrent of flavor throughout.  The currants were pleasant little bursts of chewy and sweet to give a change to the texture.

We all agreed this would make a fun sotelty, as something to serve at the beginning of the meal to start it off with a fun surprise.  Each egg was just a few bites, a perfect size for an appetizer.

Success!

It was easier to stuff the shells with the very moist mixture.  The moisture made the mixture flow more into the shell.  It was easier to compact it by gently shaking the egg or stirring the mixture with a thin tool.  It took less time to stuff each shell.

I baked them longer this time because I wanted to make sure it they were cooked all the way through.  35 minutes achieved that, although I think they could have gone longer, up to 40 minutes.  The inside texture was moist but cooked, and not at all dry.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Stuffed Eggs, part 1 -- another recipe from the Transylvanian cookbook


It is time to pick a recipe from the Transylvanian Prince's Cookbook!

This is the digital translation of a book in Hungarian that I have tried recipes from before.  Here is the book reference:

The Prince of Transylvania’s court cookbook 

From the 16th century 

THE SCIENCE OF COOKING


You can find a copy of it here:  http://www.medievalcookery.com/etexts/transylvania-v2.pdf

The recipes I have tried are here:  Prince of Transylvania's court cookbook

Today I picked out three recipes, and I picked three because of how similar they are.  The first and second look pretty straightforward.  I considered the third and decided I really didn't want to try that, at least not for my first attempt.

Stuffed Eggs

(532) Stuffed eggs. Poke a hole into the eggs, blow out the insides, fry it and slice it, stuff it with honey, black pepper, currants, saffron and cinnamon, then put it on a thin skewer, roast it far from the coal, then serve it.

(599) Egg stuffed in shell. Put twelve eggs on a plate, poke a hole in them, blow out the white and the yolk. Once blown out, add black pepper, saffron and salt, put them into butter and cook it, cut it with a knife, whip two raw eggs, add sugar, small grapes and some parsley. Then pour it back into the egg shell. Make a skewer, put the eggs on it, and roast them.

(601) Stuffed egg white. Wash the egg, boil it, once boiling, pour the hot water down and add some cold water. Poke the end, blow out the yolk onto a pot, leave the whites inside. Cook the yolk like scrambled eggs, add sugar, saffron, black pepper, salt and small grapes. Put some parsley and whip some eggs into it, stuff it into the shell, boil it again in water, once boiled, take down the shell, only the white will be stuffed. Put it on a skewer and roast it; you can make any sauce.

I loved the idea behind all of these recipes:  They are creating a "sotelty", an illusion food.  What is served might look like a hard-cooked egg, but when you crack it open, you get a surprise.

I think it is worth a try!

My redaction for the first recipe:

4 eggs
butter for cooking the eggs
1 1/2 to 2 tsp honey
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tablespoon dried currants
a pinch of saffron


I warmed the honey so it would be liquid.
First, preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.

Preparing the eggs

I took a small appetizer fork that has very sharp points and used it to poke a big hole (about 1 cm diameter) in the blunt end of each egg.  I had to poke some tiny holes first, then the shell started cracking and I was able to pick out bits of shell until the opening was big enough and somewhat round.  Then I poked a very small hole on the pointy end of the egg.

Big hole, with little in the back.


Little hole, just bigger than the skewer diameter
Holding the big opening over a bowl, I blew on the small hole until the yolk and white left the shell.  Then I wiped down the shell.

I think it is inevitable that some tiny bits of shell will get into the whites/yolk, but I was able to pick out most of them before I beat it with a fork until they were well scrambled.

The cooking part

I melted some butter in a pan and gently cooked the eggs.  I intentionally undercooked them so they would be very moist.  I wanted my final mixture to still need cooking once the shells were stuffed.

Moist eggs
I used the fork to break up the eggs and to mix in the spices, currants, and honey.  I added the honey last and tasted the mixture several times until I thought it was lightly spiced and moist enough.

With all the ingredients, and broken up with the fork into small pieces
To stuff the shells, I used the tines of the fork to scoop up the egg mixture and place it over the hole.  Then I used the flat of the fork to gently push the stuffing into the hole.  Sometimes I used the appetizer fork to push the stuffing down once it was inside the shell.

Don't worry about the mess on the shell, it will clean up.
When I felt I couldn't put in any more stuffing, I first wiped the shell with a damp cloth, then dried it with another cloth.

Each stuffed egg felt heavier than they were before they were blown.  Also, the amount of stuffing was just right:  I had just a little left over in the pan once I was through.  I put in effort to compact the stuffing while I was putting it in.

Four stuffed eggs, all clean and pretty!
The baking part

The recipe called for putting the eggs on a skewer, which I assumed would be necessary for roasting eggs over coals.  While I was stuffing the eggs (it took a while), I decided that the skewer would make a fun visual effect for serving, so I put two eggs on one skewer.  Be sure to put the tip of the skewer into the small hole first, so that it is easy to find the big hole as the skewer exits the stuffing.
I think this looks neat!

I put the eggs on a tray and baked them for 20 minutes.




The Verdict

I served them as they were, right out of the oven.

It took a little experimenting, but we found the best way (I thought) to eat them was to crack them in the middle with the edge of the spoon, which allowed the eggs to be broken in half by hand.  Then we used the spoon to scoop out the stuffing from each half.  The first attempt (see the pictures) was to peel the eggs like a hard-cooked egg and then scoop, but that made a big mess of shell.  It was too easy to eat some shell in the process.

We cracked the shell with the bowl of the spoon, or tapped it on the plate.
Peeling away the shell.

Ready to eat!
I did not tell my guest tasters what was in the stuffing.  I challenged them to tell me what they tasted.  

One was certain the stuffing was mostly rice, with some spices and currents.  He wasn't impressed with it and thought it needed salt.  He did salt several bites and said that improved the flavor.  In the end, he said it wasn't bad but he didn't think it was exciting.

The other two guests thought the stuffing was mostly oatmeal.  Once they knew it was egg, they decided they thought it was oatmeal because it had the sorts of flavors they associate with it (honey, cinnamon, currants or raisins).  They said there was enough blandness that it seemed like oatmeal.  

However, they liked it and were intrigued with the technique.  We discussed ways to make the stuffing more appealing, and agreed it needs a bit of salt and more spice to really bump up the flavor.

Success!  I want to do it again with those improvements.

There are some things I would do differently.  I wish that I had taken the scrambled eggs out of the pan before mixing in the other ingredients.  I think the eggs cooked more than I wanted from the residual heat in the pan, and I wasn't happy about that.  Perhaps the result would have been more flavorful on its own.  I also think I would mix the saffron into the uncooked eggs so it could flavor them better while they cooked.

While preparing the stuffing, I thought a lot about the purpose of baking the eggs.  I decided it was to heat them all the way through, and perhaps to get the stuffing firmed up in the shell.  That is why I picked a low temperature (slow heating to get through to the center) and left them in there for 20 minutes.  I think it was a good choice.  The stuffing was very warm completely into the center.  

We had a good conversation about other stuffings to make.  The idea I liked best was to mix the uncooked beaten eggs with a little salt, tiny bits of cooked bacon or sausage, and some herbs or spices or chives or green onion.  After plugging the tiny hole with a bit of cheese, pour the egg mixture back into the shell.  Bake it to serve an omelet in its shell!

Tune in tomorrow to read about my second attempt at stuffed eggs.  


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Makin' Bacon at Home

It is fun to learn the "old" skills.  I have often asked myself, "How did they do/make this back before they had...?"  

In this case it was, "How did they make bacon before grocery stores made it prevalent and easy to acquire?"  It is an old skill that has been making a comeback, which is why this book, Charcuterie, by Ruhlman and Polcyn, caught my attention in a bookstore one day.  I must also admit that my interest was peaked while at the Culinary Symposia -- so many people there are accomplished at curing and smoking meats.  I loved tasting their impressive accomplishments.



I was taken in by this quote from Charcuterie (page 40):
... what you make at home will be superior to just about anything you can buy at supermarkets.  Most of the bacon there comes from factory-raised hogs, the curing done at commercial plants, and the result is thin strips of watery meat that, even when cooked until crisp, have a taste only reminiscent of real bacon.
When you make your own bacon and fry a slice, you'll know what bacon is all about.  Notice the copious amount of fat that renders out, and that the meat doesn't reduce in size by fifty percent.  The result can give you an understanding of why bacon became such a powerful part of America's culinary culture. 
I decided that my first attempt at curing bacon should use the most basic technique.

First I made the dry cure mixture.  The authors note that the ingredients need to be weighed, not measured, for a cure that will work as advertised.  For example, they say that Morton's Kosher salt weighs 8 ounces for one cup, but that Diamond Crystal (the brand I used) weighs 4.8 ounces for one cup.

"Pink salt" is the trade term for salt mixed with nitrite.  It is 93.75 percent salt and 6.25 percent nitrite.  The mix is dyed pink so it cannot be easily confused with regular salt.  Nitrites, consumed in large quantities, are dangerous.  Be careful!  But their small quantities are important in the curing mixture to help prevent botulism.

The Basic Dry Cure with Granulated Sugar (page 39)
1 pound/450 grams kosher salt
8 ounces/225 grams sugar 
8 teaspoons/56 grams pink salt


Combine all the ingredients, mixing well.  Stored in a plastic container, this keeps indefinitely.


When well mixed, it is slightly pink in color
Once I had the dry cure together, I set up the pork belly in a bag with the cure, as described below.  My pork belly weighed about 2 pounds, so I followed the instructions that use just a plastic bag, not a baking sheet.

Fresh Bacon (pages 42-43)
One 3- to 5-pound/1.5- to 2.25 kilogram slab pork belly, skin on
Basic Dry Cure as necessary for dredging (about 1/4 cup/50 grams)
Skin side is down
If your belly weighs between 3 and 5 pounds/1.5 and 2.25 kilograms, it's fine to simplify the method by placing the belly in the Ziplok bag, adding 1/4 cup/30 grams of dry cure along with whatever additional sugar and seasonings  of your choice, closing the bag and shaking it to distribute the ingredients.  It is no more complicated than that.

The pork will release a lot of liquid as it cures, and it's important that the meat and the container are a good fit so that the cure remains in contact with the meat.  The salty cure liquid that will be released, water leached from the pork by the salt, must be allowed to surround the meat for continuous curing.  The plastic bag allows you to redistribute the cure (technically called overhauling) without touching the meat, which is cleaner and easier.  Refrigerate the belly for 7 days, flipping the bag or meat to redistribute the cure liquid every other day. 
After 7 days, check the belly for firmness.  If it feels firm at its thickest point, it's cured.  One week should be enough time to cure the bacon, but if it still feels squishy, refrigerate it for up to 2 more days.   
Remove the belly from the cure, rinse it thoroughly, and pat it dry with paper towels, discard the curing liquid.  It can rest in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days at this point. 
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F./93 degrees C. 
Put the belly in a roasting pan, preferably on a rack for even cooking, and roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees F./65 degrees C., about 2 hours; begin taking its temperature after 1 1/2 hours.  It will have an appealing roasted appearance and good aroma, and it will feel firm to the touch.  Remove the rind or skin, now, when the fat is still hot, using a large sharp chef's knife. 
Allow the bacon to cool to room temperature (try a piece now though, straight out of the oven--it's irresistible; remember that end pieces may be a little more salty than the rest).  Once it is cool, wrap well and refrigerate.

There are more instructions on testing the bacon for saltiness and correcting it if too salty.  They also say that you can freeze it for up to 3 months if you won't be using it all up within 1 to 2 weeks.

My Notes

I didn't include the list of "additional sugar and seasonings" since I wasn't planning on using them.

My pork belly weighed about 2 pounds.  I still used 1/4 cup of the dry cure, which I scooped, not weighed.  (Note:  They listed 1/4 cup as both 30 grams and 50 grams.  The Internet tells me 30 grams is correct.)

After I shook it and turned the belly inside the bag to cover it with the cure, I pressed out as much air from the bag as I could, and put it into the refrigerator.

The cure crystals as they sit on the pork belly surface
And then a small disaster occurred.  I had been looking at the bacon and, not realizing I had left the bag open, turned it over and dumped much of the liquid onto the floor.  It was one day into the process, so I put in another 1/4 cup of the dry cure and hoped for the best.

I remembered to turn it as described.  On the last day I rinsed it well and patted it dry while the oven was preheating.

Rinsed, dried, ready for the oven.

The other side, on the rack and the baking pan.

It took just a little over 2 hours for the internal temperature to reach 150 degrees F.

Looks good to me!

I took the rind off, carving it off in pieces.

I think I need to practice this skill.
I tried a piece while it was still warm.  It was tasty but it was an end piece and it was almost too salty for my taste buds.

After a few days, I cut off two small pieces, cooked them, and ate them.

Two end pieces

The Verdict

The pieces looked good.  They smelled good.  They didn't shrink.

But oh, they were too salty!  It was hard for me to assess their overall flavor because I was reacting to the saltiness.  My three guest tasters all thought the saltiness was just right, and were very pleased with the rich flavor it had.

I didn't try the techniques described for reducing the saltiness, which are essentially to blanch the bacon.  But I did use it in the Transylvanian recipe of Veal in Grape Leaves.  It gave the filling just the right amount of saltiness, as well as a rich, meaty flavor.

So I would call this a success, with the thought in mind that I will try it again to see if I can improve on the salt level.  I will try to keep all of the liquid in with the meat this time (!) and weigh the cure before I put it into the bag.  It is possible that the bacon was too salty because I used too much cure.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Veal (Chicken) in Grape Leaves -- another recipe from the Transylvanian cookbook

It is time to pick a recipe from the Transylvanian Prince's Cookbook!

This is the digital translation of a book in Hungarian that I have tried recipes from before.  Here is the book reference:

The Prince of Transylvania’s court cookbook 

From the 16th century 

THE SCIENCE OF COOKING


You can find a copy of it here:  http://www.medievalcookery.com/etexts/transylvania-v2.pdf

The recipes I have tried are here:  Prince of Transylvania's court cookbook

Today I picked recipe number 81, found on page 20.


Veal in grape leaves. 

Cut the roast veal like they cut dumplings (chopped into a fine mince); slice some bacon, add some black pepper and eggs, if you have no eggs, ‘tis no problem, for the grape leaves hold it (Hold them together in their shape) , but the grape leaves are good only if they are weak (Weak: young and/or tender), put meat balls onto the leaves, fold them, put it in the pot, pour beef broth on top then cook it, add some black pepper and serve it with the grape leaves. 


My Redaction

The first decision I made was to use chicken instead of veal.  It is more available and less expensive.  Because of this, I chose to use chicken broth instead of beef broth.

The directions say to "cut the roast veal", so I chose to use cooked chicken.  What I had on hand was chicken thighs that had been marinated and grilled, so I removed the skin and cut the meat off the bones.  It was this that I weighed for the ingredients list below.

1 lb cooked chicken meat
1/4 lb bacon
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten

grape leaves (preserved) for wrapping
chicken broth to cover 

And chicken broth
First I chopped the chicken meat into a fine mince.  I chopped it until the pieces seemed to be small enough that they would stick together if moistened with a beaten egg.

I chopped in batches and made tiny bits.
Then I chopped the bacon, but it wasn't chopped quite as fine.



I sprinkled the pepper over the two meats and mixed it all well.

Pre-egg.  A fluffy mass.
Then I poured the beaten egg over it all and mixed well again.  When I took a small handful of the mixture and squeezed it, it compressed and stayed in the ball shape I pressed it into.

Barely moist and perfect for holding the mixture together.
The grape leaves were taken out of their jar and rinsed several times with fresh water.  This didn't separate them all completely, so I put them into a big bowl of water while I worked with them so they could continue to be rinsed of their brine and any dirt that might have gotten on them.  This worked well.

One grape leaf was positioned on my cutting board with the stem away from me.

I put all of them with the veins up, towards me.
I took a big spoonful of the filling and placed it on the leaf.

With practice, I knew where to put the mixture for easy wrapping.
My fingers were very handy for slightly compressing the filling.  This showed me how much space the filling really needed and made it easier to wrap.

Later I found putting the filling lower than this worked better for wrapping without losing filling.
I folded the sides over the filling, then pulled the stem side over the filling and tucked it gently against the filling.  Next I rolled the leaf over itself until I had a tidy little bundle.

The leaf wrapped around the filling to about the same size as the filling.
The bundles were stacked in layers in my big kettle.  It turned out that 28 fit snugly into the bottom, then I turned the kettle and started stacking the bundles in a second layer.

The first layer
The quantity of filling made 40 bundles.

A layer and a bit more of another
That left me with many, many grape leaves still sitting in the jar.  Did I really want to stop there?  No!  So I made a second filling, modifying the original recipe with a few extra ingredients.  While making the first batch of bundles I kept thinking, "This needs fruit!  It needs nuts!  It needs something sour!"  So the second filling was 9 ounces of minced chicken meat (from thinly sliced deli chicken breast), 3 ounces bacon, 1 teaspoon pepper, a small handful of barberries (zareshk) soaked in hot water for a few minutes then drained, a small handful of pine nuts, and 1 egg.

Wetter than the first mix because 1 egg was used for a smaller quantity.
This filling made another 30 bundles.  At that point I stopped making more and concentrated on cooking them.

I poured about 20 ounces of chicken broth over the layers in the kettle.  This didn't quite cover them all, but the highest ones still had broth up to about their half-way point.

Not covered but close.
I covered the kettle, brought the broth up to a gentle simmer, and set the timer for 30 minutes.  I checked on them several times at first -- I had to lower the heat to keep the simmer from turning into a boil.  But after that they had about 20 minutes of uninterrupted, covered cooking.

Once the cooking was through, I removed the lid and let them cool a little.

Cooked and cooled.
They were then easy to remove from the kettle (with tongs!) and to stack on a plate for serving.  I noticed a lot of the broth had been absorbed into the bundles.

As per the original directions, I sprinkled a very little bit of pepper over the tops of the stack.  I just used a pinch of pepper across the tops.

Once stacked, a lot of the broth settled at the bottom, which I drained off before serving.

The Verdict

I served them with chardonnay wine.  Yes, that was all!




We tried the original recipe first, and it was still warm from the kettle.  Oh. My.  It was wonderful!  I was astonished at how good it tasted:  juicy, and rich in meaty and peppery flavors.  The bacon had made it just right with the salt balance.  The pepper came through but was not overwhelming.  The texture was a little chewy (nice!), the leaves were tender, and one bundle was two or three bites -- perfect.

The modified recipe was also very good:  all the same flavors as the original but with a little more resistance to the tooth from the pine nuts and a charming, little burst of sour from the barberries.  My guest taster declared that to be the best part and so the modified was his favorite.  He thought the original was definitely sweeter than the modified but not in a bad way.

I loved them both equally.  I liked the burst of sour and the pine nut but I also liked eating the original as a counterpoint to not having the burst.  The original really had the bacon-and-chicken blend as its emphasis, which appealed to me.

I think I could do without the light sprinkling of pepper on the bundles.  A few times I felt the pepper was too dominant, and it had to have been because of the sprinkling.  I think if I were to do that again, I would either skip it or put on even less.

So success!  A marvelous success!  It was easy to make (the rolling of the bundles was actually a contemplative time for me) and the results were excellent.

Extras:  They were good warmed up the next day, served with toast and melon.  They were good cold, right out of the refrigerator, too.  The pepper flavor really came through then, as a bite on the tongue.  If you don't like that, use 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons in the filling.

Side note:  The broth itself, what was left over in the kettle, was also very tasty.  Worth sipping!


Monday, October 1, 2018

Maraqat al-Khudra -- Ragout of Green Vegetables with Mutton (Tunisia)

I had a large, lovely bunch of rainbow chard that was calling out for some interesting and new preparation.  What answered was the book, A Mediterranean Feast, by Clifford Wright.

ISBN 0-688-15305-4
I've used this book before with excellent results:  Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts, Eggplant the Perfect Way, and Maccharruni con Pesto Trapanese.  I felt confident in choosing another recipe from it.

This recipe was a bit of a challenge for me.  Not because of the cooking techniques but because of one ingredient:  harisa (harissa) sauce.  He gives a recipe and mentions you can buy it premade, so that was not the problem.  So what, then?  I am a wimp when it comes to chiles, peppers, hot spices that have fire.  Can I handle this?  I needed to know.

Maraqat al-Khudra -- Ragout of Green Vegetables with Mutton (pages 108-109)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound boneless lamb or mutton shoulder, trimmed of all fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 teaspoons tabil (see recipe below)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 medium-large onions (about 1 pound), chopped
1 pound Swiss chard, washed well, trimmed of the heavier part of their stalks, and chopped
Leaves from 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
2/3 cup cooked chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons harisa
1/2 cup water
Juice from 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground red pepper, such as Aleppo or cayenne


And the chard!
1.  In a medium-size nonreactive casserole, heat the olive oil over high heat.  Toss the lamb or mutton with the tabil, salt, and pepper.  Brown the meat and onions in the hot oil, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

2.  Reduce the heat to low and add the Swiss chard and parsley with the water clinging to them from their last rinsing.  Cook until this liquid is mostly evaporated, about 10 minutes.

2.  Add the chickpeas, tomato paste, and harisa diluted in the water, the lemon juice, and black and red peppers.  Mix well, cover, and simmer over a very low heat until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours, moistening the ragout with small amounts of water if it is drying out.  Serve.  (Makes 4 servings)

My Notes

I had a nice piece of lamb shoulder, which I cut off the bone and cubed.

**********
The tabil recipe is on page 522:

2 large garlic cloves, chopped and dried in the open air for two days, or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/4 cup coriander seeds
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

In a mortar, pound the garlic with the coriander, caraway, and cayenne until homogeneous.  Store in the refrigerator or freezer.  Keep in the refrigerator if using fresh garlic for up to 2 months or indefinitely if using powdered garlic, although the pungency will decline as time goes by.

I used garlic powder.  My coriander was already ground, so I pounded the garlic powder, caraway, and cayenne together, then added the coriander to get about 1/4 cup.  I doubt if this mixture is as pungent as intended, but it is what I had.

**********

When I got ready to brown the meat, I put the onions in first.  This had the advantage that the meat did not stick to the bottom of the pan.  I set the timer for 5 minutes and let it cook.



I used a 6 quart pan for this, and the chard-plus-parsley mix filled it to the top.  Once it cooked for a little while, the mass reduced in size.  In ten minutes, most of the liquid was gone.


Then I added the rest of the ingredients.  Yes, the entire 1 1/2 teaspoons of the pungent harisa!  (Store-bought.)  I also used cayenne for the red pepper.



The heat was at its very lowest and the lid was on tight.  I checked it every 30 minutes to make sure it wasn't drying out.  It wasn't, not even getting close.

After 1 hour and 15 minutes, I tested the lamb.  It was so incredibly tender that I declared the cooking done and got it ready to serve.



The Verdict

I served it with a mushroom and herb couscous, which seemed like it would be a mild counterpoint to a spicy dish.

You can't really see the heat it contains...
The maraqat was not dry.  In fact, it was rather juicy, so when I scooped it, I tried not to pick up the extra liquid on the bottom of the pan.

The lamb was tender and flavorful.  The sauce was spicy!  Almost too much for me, but I persisted (and drank milk with the meal).  It was hard for me to get the other spice flavors out of any bite because I was dealing with the heat.

I did like it!  The meat and veggies together were a nice blend of textures, and I really liked that there were more veggies than meat.  The garbanzo beans added a slightly chewy blandness, to give some relief from the fiery sauce.  The veggies gave it a slightly earthy flavor, which I liked very much.

My guest taster felt that the heat was just right.  Overall, he liked the flavor combination.

Success!

I had the leftovers the next day and included a spoonful of sour cream on top, which was a good addition.

I really wanted to see what it tasted like without so much heat, so I made it again and used only 1/2 teaspoon of the harisa.  The result was also good!  I liked it much better and could taste the other spices.

Overall, it was easy to prepare and cook.  The result was tasty and filling.  I think that some time I will try it with more lamb, just to shift the balance towards the meat.  The tenderness and flavor are worth it.